CS 567 Winter 2024
Empirical Lab Studies (Quantitative) in SE and HCI

(To quantitively understand humans' use of tools, environments, and practices with software and/or software development)

Instructor: Dr. Burnett
Office: KEC 3051
E-Mail: burnett@eecs.oregonstate.edu

Dr. Burnett's Office Hours are listed on my home page

Course Description

The course is about empirical methods in understanding humans' use of tools, environments, and practices with software and/or software development. There are many possibilities about empirical methods, and we can't cover them all. Thus, this course will focus on a method that is very useful for certain kinds of questions in HCI/SE, but is not well understood in computer science: how to scientifically conduct and analyze (statistically oriented) laboratory studies with human participants.

What the course is:

What the course isn't:

Course objectives

You can think of this as a "research methods" course, focusing on the research method of doing this type of empirical work. The goals are that by the end of this course, you will be able to:
  1. Choose when a (statistically oriented) lab study is the right choice of empirical work.
  2. Design, conduct, and gather data in such lab studies...
  3. ... according to accepted ethical principles of dealing with human subjects.
  4. Analyze data in lab studies using quantitative (statistical) methods.
  5. Report quantitative lab study empirical work in research publications.


Contrary to what the catalog or scheduling system might say, the only prerequisite for this course is grad standing in Computer Science.

How the course will be conducted, method of instruction

You'll actually do a lab study of some programming language, tool, or practice, with a team. You and your teammates will choose your project together.

I'm anticipating little or no programming in this course. There will be some lectures by me; about half of the classes will be like this. The other half of the class will be more studio/discussion style, with teams discussing and critiquing each others' work, and based on team presentations in which the class jointly provides feedback on some aspect of a team's case study. In short, it will be highly interactive.


We will also have selected readings from other sources, but you don't have to buy those.

I have high expectations, and expect performance worthy of graduate students in computer science. Thus, in this class, "A" does not mean "adequate" or "nothing wrong" -- it means "excellent". For an A, you should expect to dig deep and get the most you can out of the class.


Margaret M. Burnett
Date of last update: Jan. 19, 2024